Just west of the Midwest Chapter 15: Hong Kong Holiday

Even though our dreams of laying on a beach somewhere quickly began to fade as we found most resorts booked and travel prices far out of our range, Sam and I finally managed to make arrangements to travel to Hong Kong over the Christmas/New Year holiday.

Trying to avoid any more frustrations over the ridiculous nature of Christmas in Japan (A time of giving musical toilet paper holders and diamond-studded toothpicks, as well as a complete disregard for the true nature of the holiday, said the non-Catholic Catholic whose entrance into church starts the walls trembling and bleeding.), Sam and I headed across Kyushu to Kagoshima on Christmas Eve, where the following day we would catch our flight to Hong Kong via Dragon Airlines.

After dining on Okanomiyaki (a savory Japanese-style pancake would be the best way to describe this delectable fare) in a small establishment where we were, as usual, the focus of far too much attention, going to a karaoke bar (where our waiter was dressed in a plastic Frosty the Snowman costume and we were surrounded by gaggles of giggling, pouty-faced women), Sam and I went in search of any quiet, dark place where we could drink in peace and obscurity.

Sadly, all we found were streets filled with drunks bent on throwing obscene comments our way and an increasing desire to return to our hotel room where we could patiently wait for our plane to take us far, far away from the land of the Rising Sun, which has recently begun to test my patience and sunny disposition, God Damn It!

If some of you are thinking the “Honeymoon Period” in Japan has ended, you would be absolutely correct. However, don’t misunderstand. I’m still happy here and plan on staying for another year, but this isn’t heaven and I’m certainly no angel. Things here have been getting on my nerves lately, especially regarding what a foreigner living in rural Japan often has to deal with on a daily basis. The stereotypical assumptions of what many Japanese think it means to be a “gaijin” can be very, very frustrating. For this very reason, a vacation has become far more than a luxury.

It’s become an absolute necessity.

And we’re hoping a cosmopolitan environ such as Hong Kong will be just the ticket to restore our peace of mind and love of Japan.

Christmas Day we hopped aboard our plane and three hours later, we found ourselves descending over the bustling city of Hong Kong. After the initial shock of landing at the airport – which is akin to threading a needle, as the pilot must maneuver between a massive sea of skyscrapers in order to find the airstrip – we headed to the Bangkok Royal Hotel in the center of the shopping district of Kowloon.

Hong Kong is, more or less, divided into three major territories: Kowloon and the New Territory (which can be found on the mainland) and Hong Kong Island, just across the bay. From our first glimpse of the city through the window of the bus, Hong Kong looked frighteningly similar to my first impressions of Tokyo.

But this was soon proven entirely incorrect.

After settling into our very small and very dark (there being no window and obviously no fire regulations), but clean and cheap room, we headed into the light to check out our new surroundings, absolutely giddy to be somewhere other than Japan. It took only a few minutes of wandering down the street to see why Hong Kong is considered a shopper’s paradise. In a one block radius, we saw just about every kind of store imaginable.

And the streets were swarming with life.

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Photo by acfrohna

I can’t recall ever being in a city before where the ethnicities of its people were so diverse – a true melting pot. There are British, Chinese, African, American, Australian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, German, and on and on. As I walked and listened to all the different languages being spoken and looked at the magnificently diverse complexions and comportments, I couldn’t help but feel I’d just walked into this human spice shop where every sight and every smell sent my senses reeling with exciting possibilities. Even the common language of English being spoken here was brimming with a global variety of accents and inflections. And the atmosphere – combining the ancient and modern, Asian and Western, opulent and oppressed – created by this multicultural gathering was absolutely enthralling.

As the sun dipped behind the skyline and our stomachs ached for sustenance, Sam and I  began to scan the neighborhood for an inviting place to eat. Not knowing what we wanted and having every cuisine imaginable to choose from, we hoped we would be given a sign – a direction.

What we got, however, was even more confused.

The still teeming streets were now beginning to flicker and glow as neon lights and electric signs switched on, creating a collage of color, shape and motion; while the activity in motion below also fused together in a steady, colorful stream of people and automobiles.

Trucks were honking.

Shop owners were hawking.

Fish markets were squiggling.

The homeless and crippled were begging.

Street vendors barking.

And I was struggling to take it all in.

It was good to be out and about – and unnoticed –  here. To have the film of “gaijin” washed away. Or, at least, replaced by “just another bloody foreigner.”

We were finally drawn in by the smells of a Thai restaurant (cleverly called the Thai Cuisine Restaurant) and there, for the next several hours, we proceeded to order – and eat – enough food and beer for eight.

And that was our Christmas.

It was awesome.

The following day, Sam and I decided to venture over to Hong Kong Island, so we hopped on a crowded ferry and chugged across the bay. Like most of the public transportation in Hong Kong (which offers everything from trollies and trains to ferries and double-decker buses), it was fast and cheap, and very efficient. I realize this information might be as interesting to all of you as a rerun of “Gnat: the Tiny Wonder of the Insect World, an Historic Overview,” but considering the size and locality of things here, I thought it was worth mentioning.

So sue me.

After sitting down and perusing our newly purchased “Where to go and what to do in Hong Kong” books, we came to the conclusion that… we still didn’t have the foggiest idea of what to do or how to get there. In the end, we put our books back into our bags, licked our fingers, pointed them towards the sky…

and followed the wind.

This brilliant tactic eventually led us to a main thoroughfare and on to a tram headed “eastish”… Or maybe it was northward.

Whatever the case, neither Sam or I were going to let a little thing like a “plan” get in the way of having fun. What we soon discovered about Hong Kong was that around every corner there was something fascinating to discover. So, with no direction in mind, we found ourselves wandering up narrow, twisting roads, down long, steep, crooked stairs and through crowded markets where smells ranged from the putrid to the divine and the sights went from the truly grand to the utterly grotesque.

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Photo by acfrohna

At a fish market, I wandered from basket to basket taking it all in, lingering only once when I suddenly found myself transfixed by a fish monger who took a large eel from a writhing bucket of eels and “chop!” Grabbing both ends of the creature – still squiggling violently – he then tossed them into an old woman’s basket who couldn’t have looked more blasé about her half-dead dinner, bloody and squirming at the bottom of her basket.

Here, the taste for the unusual can bring you face to face with animals most would shudder at finding on their dinner plate. This reality came smashing down on me after wandering into a store filled with animals in cages: cats, owls, rats, armadillos.

I assumed the establishment was an exotic pet store.

Until the shop owner made the internationally recognized sign for shoveling “cat” in one’s mouth, followed by rubbing the stomach with a “that was yummy” look on his face. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised considering you can go into a local apothecary here and find items such as tiger balls, sea dog penis, antlers, ears and a variety of dried body parts that, frankly, aren’t meant to be anywhere but attached to their rightful owner.

All of a sudden, the thought of seeing the shop owner wrap up one of these helpless creatures knowing it was someone’s dinner forced me to shiver and make a hasty exit.

As we continued to wander around the city, I noticed that Hong Kong certainly has its share of excessively ugly modern architecture, but I was also overjoyed when we found, hidden signs of what was once not only a rich, ancient culture, but a powerful British Colony and a link to the Western World.

Intermixed with the tin shanties and grimy, characterless high-rises, there are cobbled streets that lead to charming manors, reflecting the grace and elegance of Victorian England. While smaller lanes house shadows of ancient dynasties.

Even though we failed to see any of the things we set our sights on, it was a really good day.

To sum up our activities: picture two women who’ve been living in a country where, for the past five months, they’ve been earning more money than they’ve ever made before and can’t spend any of it on really cool Japanese designers (such as Yoji Yamamoto), because their size, in Japan, is looked upon as something abnormal. Now picture the same two women in Hong Kong, a city where fashion is function, where clothes are available in every color and size AND at a fraction of the cost. It was a veritable shopping frenzy and we’re proud to report that not a single fashion-related fatality occurred as a result of our ungoverned enthusiasm. I also managed to check off my double-digit gift list for family, friends, and my Shintomi-cho family, and their friends and… associates. Gift giving is HUGE in Japan. Especially Omiyage, which are little souvenirs you’re expected to bring back from vacation for friends and co-workers.

Slightly depressed about having to be selfless and think of others, Sam and I quit shopping late in the afternoon and went to have a bite to eat.

Yes… and a few beers.

What are you, my parents?

We found ourselves at a restaurant we had read about called Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, where we were told there was great music and, even more important, rowdy Australian men with whom we could reaffirm our ability to attract and flirt with the opposite sex. So fun was this little excursion, we set our sights on returning later that evening.

When we did, we found the bar crowded and reverberating with Dixieland Jazz, laughter and clinking glasses. Sam and I found two seats right in front of the band and sat down next to a handsome man and his equally handsome friend. While awaiting our pitcher of beer, our attempts to display our subtle, feminine charms and our fancy new duds (still creased from the store folds) to our good-looking neighbors had an immediate effect.

The handsome pair departed.

Sadly, and somewhat ironically, they were replaced by two Japanese businessmen. Look, I have nothing against the Japanese businessman, per se, it’s just that I’m on vacation. A getaway from Japan. AND in a setting where English is the language of love and I was desperate to speak it!

Suddenly, as if good fortune was going to be my friend that day, a very, very, very handsome man (I’m talking John Lone in “The Last Emperor of China” handsome) situated himself just beside our table. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him and felt a courage – or a couple of beers – rouse my gumption. Seeing the perfect opportunity, I tapped him on the shoulder and offered to fill his empty beer glass. He accepted… smiled, and… turned back around to face the band.

Drat.

But shrugging it off in my definitive “men are pigs” manner, I turned to Sam with a shrug and returned to the music. A few moments later, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and turned to find the very, very, very handsome man handing me a drink and saying in this low, sultry, come hither, posh British accent, “It is Chinese tradition to always return a favor.”

And with that, he introduced himself.

His name is Raymond. He’s 29, a police officer with the rank of sergeant, and he speaks English beautifully. He is taller than me, sexier than anyone I HAVE EVER MET IN MY LIFE and has an infectious smile.

We talked and talked and talked.

We danced and drank and danced.

So excited about this possible tryst, I excused myself to the ladies’ room at one point during the evening. As soon as the door behind me closed, I uncorked a squeal of joy at my good fortune, startling the woman coming out of the stall, who slowly backed from the bathroom with her cautious eyes never once leaving me.

It was 2:30 a.m. when the bartenders finally drove out the crowds and us with it. Sam, who had spent the evening at a nearby table with an Austrian named Guntrab moved on with him, Raymond’s friend, Mike, called it an evening.

And then… there were two.

Raymond took me to a dark, smoky jazz bar where we danced and held each other tighter and tighter and… in order to preserve some level of self-respect… Flash forward to the next day when I returned to the Bangkok Royal Hotel with a smile on my face, a spring in my step and wanton, wickedly good memories of my first time in a Love Hotel (a common accommodation in Japan as well), where couples of all shapes, types and marital status, go to get it on.

Think pink neon.

Ceiling mirrors.

A round bed.

Red satin sheets.

And “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

I’d blush, but I don’t wanna.

Being with Raymond is not only exciting, but really easy.

If he just lived closer.Say… my apartment in Shintomi.

It seems that my chance for a great romance isn’t just a joke, it’s an interminable itch. Anyway, the day after the night at the Love Hotel, Sam (who was a good girl, but horribly hungover) and I decided that if we were going to feel this bad, then we had to at least look good. So, we dragged our sad bodies from bed, went to the nearest restaurant, ordered heaps of food (only half of which we were able eat due to the fact that our red, puffy eyes were bigger than our beer-soaked stomachs), and then walked into a salon right across the street.

An hour and two short, sassy haircuts later (photos would reveal our haircuts were certainly short, but not in the least bit sassy), Sam and I revealed ourselves to the outside world. However, we stayed in close range of our hotel for fear that any sudden urge to lapse into an alcohol-induced coma could be easily appeased. Even though the remainder of the day was about as un-cultural and uneventful as one could imagine, I did check a few more people off my gift list and then fell into a sound sleep early that night.

I might as well confess this right here and right now. The only days during our vacation that Sam and I were up before noon were when we either hadn’t gone to sleep the night before or had to wake up early to catch our plane home. Our motto: “We’re on vacation and can do what we damn well please.”

And if that wasn’t rationalization enough, how about the fact that even though Hong Kong is an exciting, diverse, fascinating city, it does lack cultural attractions.

Really!

It’s true, I tell you.

Sam and I did attempt a visit to the Hong Kong Museum of Art (one of the few museums in the city) and were disappointed to find it under renovation. We also visited the Space Museum and watched the Omnimax film “To the Limit.,” which I had already seen a year ago in Chicago.

But that was about it for cultural enlightenment. At least on our end.

The staff at the Royal Bangkok Hotel, on the other hand, were clearly finding Sam and I a most fascinating anthropologic study of two nocturnally driven, Western females with bad haircuts. In fact,  the only time they ever saw us come out of our windowless, cavelike dwelling was after dark. Only to return just before dawn. It wouldn’t have surprise me in the least if I had found the chambermaid stashing a stake beneath a stack of sheets when she cleaned our room.

But what we missed in experiencing the daylight hours of Hong Kong, I am proud to say, I made up for in the time I spent with Raymond taking in Hong Kong’s nightlife. Holding hands and stealing kisses, we roamed from one glittering alleyway to the next, taking in all the inner-city smells and sights, stopping in at one spot or another to listen to jazz, or dance at a disco, and then back out into the busy streets again to visit the late night food stalls and people watch.

The only unfortunate part was during our first official evening out together with Sam and Raymond’s friend – and boss – Mike (did I fail to mention that they were out with Raymond and I). The chemistry was that of water and fire. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that Mike was proving to be a great big, balding, unwelcome, unrelenting, flaming ball of noxious gas. The more Sam turned down his increasingly adamant flirtations, the stronger his advances and the more uncomfortable everyone was becoming.

In order to help Sam get away from this raving putz, we were forced to call it a relatively early evening. Being that Raymond lived over an hour away and had an early shift in the morning, he asked if he could stay with Sam and I.

What did I think about spending the night watching the incredibly sweet and breathtakingly handsome Raymond sleep just inches from me?

The problem was that we had to do this without Mike the Menace knowing. Even though Sam couldn’t have been more clear in her revulsion of him, Mike had reached psycho status by the end of the night when he actually had the nerve to ask Sam to spend the night with him.

I’ve never known anyone to be so utterly clueless.

Or was it delusional?

So the plan was that Raymond would “leave” with his psychotic superior (Mike, by the way, is a Chief Inspector for the Hong Kong Police), pretend to be dropped off at the train station, and then meet us back at the hotel where Sam and I were anxiously waiting for him in our recently purchased matching polkadot pajamas. I lent Raymond a pair of shorts for sleeping in, then the three of us (Sam in her bed and Raymond and I snuggled up in mine) shared a few more laughs – many at Maniac Mike’s expense – and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

That is, until I felt a tap on my shoulder and opened my eyes to find Sam, with what was coming into focus as a panic-stricken face.

“I need your help,” she whispered loudly.

“For God’s sake, Sam,” I grumbled, “Can’t it wait until morning?”

“No, I don’t think so. This is SERIOUS, Anne.”

“What, Sam? What is sooooo serious?”

“Well…well…well… I, I, I pulled the sink from the wall and now the bathroom is flooding with steaming, hot water.”

I sat up and shook my head to make sure I heard her right.

“What did you say?”

“Our room is about to look like a suite on the Titanic. What should I do?”

“What do I look like Rosie the Plumber?:

This just confused my British chum.

Did you try turning the water off?

“No.”

“Well,” I croaked, as the hotel fire alarm drowned out my reply, “that might have been a good idea.”

“It might be time to call for help,” I yelled above the alarm and turned to see Raymond momentarily rouse and then roll over back to sleep.

Talk about your heavy sleeper. (I could have totally made out with him and he wouldn’t have suspected a thing.)

Anyhoo, Sam ran for help.

After assuring the steward that she was not smoking in bed, he sped into the room (pausing briefly when he saw a man in one of the beds) got to the water pipes, stopped the flooding, and began cleaning up the broken glass and water. Seeing I could be of little help, I rolled over to join Raymond still in a deep sleep. My last thoughts were how the hotel staff was going to interpret this new anthropological behavior: two girls with matching polka dot pajamas, one handsome stranger in woman’s shorts who was either sleeping heavily, dead drunk, in a coma, or dead, one sink pulled from the wall.

Hmmmmmmmm.

The next morning, Raymond, who, believe it or not, was absolutely oblivious to the aforementioned mishap, headed off to work at about 9 a.m., looking a little disheveled. Which, by golly, made him even more handsome.

Did I tell you he had an infectious smile?

Sam and I curled back up in our beds as she tried to explain exactly what had happened. Apparently, she got up to do what most… well… do in there, when she started having the spins. Naturally, in order to steady herself, she grabbed the nearest thing – the sink – and the rest is history.

A short time later, the front desk called to say that our room was now considered dangerous (Funny actually, considering the fact that the flooded floors in our windowless room would be the only thing which might keep us safe in case of fire.) and would we mind switching rooms. So, we spent the next 12 hours packing, moving, eating, sleeping, waking, eating, sleeping, sleeping and then, add to that, a little more sleeping.

The following day we dragged our sorry butts out of the hotel (However, not before noon.) and got on a boat bound for the island of Lantau. There we rode an hour on a tour bus to the top of a mountain where lies a Buddhist Monastery.

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Photo by acfrohna

Both the ride up and the monastery were magnificent, but I would have preferred about 5,000 less tourists, more time to explore, a chance to use the riding stables nearby, and an hour or so to relax in the lovely tea garden we passed. But the incredibly irritating tour guide time schedule has little patience for pause, so back we hurried to the mainland.

It was New Year’s Eve and I had plans to meet Raymond at 11 o’clock at Ned Kelly’s, so Sam and I gussied ourselves up and got to the bar around 9 p.m. to find it packed to the rafters. Unable to find two seats, we stood by the bar and ordered a few beers. Before too long, a group of four men and one woman invited us to join their already crowded table.

The holiday spirit was everywhere, so we accepted and squeezed ourselves in.

We soon learned our companions were Federal Express pilots and crew and although the population should thank its lucky stars these guys aren’t flying lots of folks around, they were a hell of a lot of fun. Especially a fellow named Bob, who could swing dance like the east coast fellows I knew and adored back in college. We were on fire on the dance floor that night and despite the serious lack of space available for tripping the light fantastic, we caused little damage and had a blast.

It also took my mind off the fact that it was well past 11 o’clock and Raymond was no where to be found.

Trying to “see the glass half-fucking full” and focusing on our fine new company of friends, I managed to glance at the bar clock out of the corners of my eyes a mere six or seven times during the eleventh hour, but was completely beside myself with disappointment when the band began its countdown to ring in the new year.

Ten.

No Raymond.

Nine.

No Raymond.

Eight.

Still no Raymond.

I couldn’t take it and headed for the bathroom before everyone began to exchange kisses.

It’s funny, I thought as I quickly serpentined to the very back of the crammed saloon, this is the one night each year which affords a person the opportunity to let down their guard and do something they’d NEVER think of doing any other night of the year. Kiss a perfect stranger. And I was running away from it.

I turned and stood, looking out across the bar for a moment, thinking about how lovely the whole scene was. Glancing once more toward the entrance of the bar – no sign of Raymond – I turned to continue my temporary escape from the celebration. As I walked down the deserted back hallway, I began to pass by a very good-looking fellow. The next thing I knew, he grabbed me and planted a long, lovely kiss on my shocked face.

He then smiled, wished me a Happy New Year with a mysterious accent and vanished into the crowd.

Leaving me standing there.

Stunned.

Knees trembling.

As if I had just received my very first kiss.

Well, I thought to myself, if I was going to be stood up… that wasn’t a bad way to get over it. So, I headed back to our table with a glint in my eye.

And there stood Raymond.

Did I tell you he had an infectious smile?

He apologized for being late, explaining he was involved in an arrest. I told him that the safety of Hong Kong’s citizens was no excuse for standing up a person you’ve known for nearly a week. He laughed, apologized again, and vowed it would never happen again.

After receiving my long-awaited New Year’s kiss from Raymond, he introduced me to his friend, whom he had brought along to make amends for Mike the Molester from the other night (Whom, by the way, we had somehow been finagled into sightseeing with tomorrow.), but Sam already had her sights set on Bob the Fed Ex Pilot. So, Raymond’s friend soon excused himself, leaving the two of us to search for more romantic atmospheres.

It was, indeed, the happiest of New Years.

The next morning, Mike the Mental Case called at 10 a.m. about our excursion. Rolling over to see Sam was no where in sight – and not really expecting to – I asked Mike if I could call him back later, hung up the phone and instantly fell back asleep. Some time later, Sam returned with the same kind of grin I donned earlier that week and threw herself on the bed. From our prone positions, where we needed to use only our lip muscles, we spent the next hour exchanging stories – until the phone rang out like a siren, warning us of our doomed afternoon with Inspector Insanity. The only bright light to the event was that Raymond planned to meet us for dinner at what is supposed to be one of the best Szechuan restaurants in Hong Kong.

To try to sum up the afternoon: it went from bad to beastly, only to end up abominably.

And even though we were taken to some very interesting and legendary Hong Kong establishments, such as the Royal Jockey Club (being an inspector in Hong Kong must pay very well), the awesome atmosphere couldn’t overshadow the fact that this man was an incredibly pompous ass who didn’t care one iota for anything either Sam or I had to say.

About anything.

The fifteen years of experience Chief Inspector Asshole amassed in Hong Kong might have actually been amusing, but the more I tried to engage in this apparently one-man-show by asking questions and adding my two cents to the conversation, the more he turned his attention to hitting on Sam, which – quite frankly – was being received with about the same warmth as another bitter, gray day at the end of a Midwest winter. To top it all off, Raymond, who was supposed to be joining us later, called to say he wouldn’t be able to meet up for dinner that night. We were stuck – alone – with this horrible man for the remainder of what was proving to be the longest day in recorded history, unable to think of a way out of this increasingly uncomfortable trio.

To explain just how sad and delusional this guy was; while walking to the restaurant where we were supposed to be meeting Raymond, Mike the Masher kept making attempt after attempt to grab – and hold – Sam’s hand. Her response (and this is after telling him several times that she wasn’t interested) was a simple and brutally direct, “No!”

Oddly enough, he kept at it.

It was the weirdest thing to witness this travesty from a few paces behind. So persistent were his attempts to hold Sam’s hand that even slapping it away had little effect. In the end, she was forced to hold her arm behind her back. Even then, he reached back and attempted to grab her hand once more.

This was getting way too creepy.

Why we made no attempts to bail out at this point is strong testament to the damage alcohol has on the brain cells. Instead, we hurried through one of the most intensely tense (but intensely delicious) meals of my life. Preparing to breathe a collective sigh of relief when we pulled up to our hotel entrance, “Dr. Strangelove” offered one more perversity.

He attempted to kiss BOTH Sam and I goodnight.

Wow… if the safety of Hong Kong’s citizens depends upon this man… parents, lock up your children.

The next day, Sam and I happily escaped Hong Kong for Macau, a Portuguese settlement located an hour’s hovercraft journey from the mainland. The tourist books had Sam and I all excited for a day of roaming through an ancient, charming, seaside town with a piece of history around each quaint corner. What we found the moment we disembarked the hovercraft was a city overrun with high-rises, tacky casinos, seedy-looking characters and pawn shops.

Nevertheless, we were relieved to discover that tucked away, here and there, were at least some of the beautiful remains of the city’s past; statues and buildings which spoke of the town’s multicultural history, and, most important, a really good meal. This, however, was not enough reason to parlay the day into anything more than hanging out until the next hovercraft’s departure.

The brightest spot of the day was seeing Raymond that night who took us dancing with two of his friends. By the evening’s end, Sam went off to pull an all-nighter with the Iowa State Hockey team we met and I was left alone with Raymond to savor the last few moments of looking into his disarmingly handsome face before returning to Japan the day after tomorrow.

I did tell you he had an infectious smile, didn’t I?

We spent our final day in Hong Kong doing what you can do best in Hong Kong.

Shopping.

It was our last chance to get the final omiyage needed in order to avoid a major cultural faux pas back in Japan. I was supposed to see Raymond again tonight, but I didn’t hear from him and decided not to call, feeling as if our late nights together had probably caused him enough undue hardship at his incredibly taxing and dangerous job. But I did mail him a little note, thanking him for such wonderful memories of Hong Kong.

And sighed all the way to the airport.

That night, Sam and I got back to my apartment; unpacked, bathed and spent the remainder of the night quiet and introspective, sobered by the full realization of how different our lives are here; how really isolated from the rest of the world we sometimes feel on our little island of Kyushu.

I began to wonder whether vacations were really worth it. After all, I said to Sam, you’re always left to face the inevitable return to everyday life – which can feel even more disappointing than before you escaped.

Then the telephone rang.

It was Raymond.

He called to say how sorry he was we didn’t get to see each other my last night in Hong Kong. He asked when I planned to return. He also teased me with the suggestion that he might make it to Japan.

I did tell you he had an infectious smile, right?

Sorry… What was I saying?

Oh yeh, vacations. Are they really worth it?

Damn right they are.

Love to you all.

It’s my sincere hope that the new year ahead is filled with handsome men, starry nights, round beds, a stomach of steel and a sense of humor.

Author: Anne Celano Frohna

I am a writer, a mother of two girls, Eva (20) and Sophia (18) and wife to one husband, Kurt. I was mostly a professional writer and editor for 30 years for graphic arts and advertising, for publishers of newspapers, magazines, books, etc.,. Now, I have a blog where I post my creative non-fiction, short stories, a couple of illustrated children's stories and a comedy I wrote about two years I spent teaching English in rural Japan (NOT a story for a child.). I’m also working on a new blog about the wonderful, hand-crafted items I've collected over the years at beautyofthrift.com. - which will also connect to the Etsy shop I recently opened called Channeling Nonna. My husband and I both love to cook and to entertain and have welcomed friends and family to our homes for over 20 years. With our eldest off at college, we also began hosting with Airbnb, the perfect (and most natural) way for me to continue to pursue my passion of writing, while at the same time help us pay for current and future college expenses.

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